The Black and Tan Club (1922-1966)

Black & Tan Club, Seattle, 1937
Black & Tan Club, Seattle, 1937
Courtesy Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Regional Branch

The Black and Tan Club was a leading jazz nightclub located in Seattle, Washington, operating from 1922 until 1966.  The nightclub flourished and was known as the most famous nightclub in Seattle at the onset of World War II.  It derived its name from the black, white, and Asian patrons who attended the club during its four decades of operation.

In the aftermath of World War I, Seattle’s nightlife began to flourish.  Initially encouraged by the flouting of prohibition, gambling and prostitution laws and unchecked by paid-off policemen, jazz nightclubs flourished throughout the city although the largest concentration was in the city’s Chinatown.  The Black and Tan Club was also in Chinatown, located on 12th and Jackson in the basement of a building whose main floor was occupied by a Japanese-owned drug store.  Soon after its founding in 1922 it became the most famous nightclub in the area.

Due to its reputation, the Black and Tan Club was able to draw in jazz greats such as Eubie Blake, Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan and Lena Horne.  By the 1950s locally and nationally popular entertainers such as Ernestine Anderson, Ray Charles, Count Basie and Charlie Parker all played the Black and Tan.  Little Willie John, most famously known for his song “Fever” was involved in a knife fight at the Black and Tan where he killed a patron.  He was convicted and sent to prison where he died.  For four decades the Black and Tan Club epitomized Seattle’s vibrant night life and became a major factor in the popularity of jazz and later rhythm and blues.